Hidden wall paintings have been uncovered during the National Trust’s £3million restoration of Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island.
Conservation specialists discovered what they originally thought was a series of butterfly motifs, after painstakingly removing layers of paint and plaster in the kitchen and the west bedroom of the former 16th-century Tudor fort. But on closer inspection, it turned out to be a stylised flower motif, likely to date from the mid to late-17th century.
John Wynn-Griffiths, conservator for the National Trust, said: “This is such an exciting and rare find. We are always extremely careful when peeling back layers of history, but we did not expect to find these paintings at all.
“The existence of interior decoration prior to Lutyens renovation of the Castle adds a new dimension to its historic function. Based on our knowledge of the physical history of Lindisfarne Castle, it suggests that there might have been more to life at the castle than just a military base.
“Although the surviving paintings are not in the best condition, given their presence in different parts of the Castle, they were possibly part of a more extensive decorative scheme. We know that they were professionally painted. A specialist conservator has stabilising the paintings so that we can preserve them.”
The Castle will reopen to visitors on Sunday, April 1, and a section of the wall paintings will be on show in the kitchen.
It will take months for the castle to dry out which means it will reopen unfurnished – a chance for visitors to see the architecture laid bare.
House steward Nick Lewis said: “We will probably never know who commissioned the work or who carried it out, but we do know the names of many soldiers who were stationed here and perhaps one decided to make his mark on the place – maybe William Browne, the Master Gunner who was here for at least 10 years from 1681 might be a good candidate, or perhaps Robert Muschamp, deputy governor of Holy Island in 1677.”